As the scorching summer heat starts to fade and the cooler temperatures of fall starts to settle in, residents of Des Moines start preparing their homes and yards for the the upcoming cold weather. For many, that leads to the question of whether they ought to cover their outside air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, in reality there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can actually cause problems.

Here, the specialists at Kohles & Bach Heating & Cooling share five reasons why covering your air conditioning equipment doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Snow won't Hurt Your AC

Outdoor AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These machines are built with durable materials and hardware that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are constructed to resist corrosion, and the housing is crafted to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covering AC Systems can Encourage Mold

One of the reasons you should not cover your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is definitely not what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because allowing moisture to collect inside the unit generates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to flourish.

Mold and mildew not only have an unpleasant aroma, but they can also pose health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Also, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Rather than covering the unit, instead make sure the unit has proper drainage and keep the area around the unit free of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. A Covered Air Conditioner Can Host Animals

Humans aren’t the only ones who prepare for winter. Animals that live around your home are also looking for a warm, cozy place to live for the winter months. For many animals, a covered air conditioner is an awesome winter dwelling.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats frequently make nests inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered AC unit can cause several problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other connections, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the appliance and potentially causing it to overheat. Additionally, animal droppings can result in unsanitary conditions and potent odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps discourage animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from chilly temperatures than a covered unit. That’s better for your air conditioner—and leaves you with less mess to throw away and things to repair in the spring.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it's better that you don't cover your air conditioner in the winter is because a cover limits airflow through the unit. Adequate airflow is crucial for the AC system because it assists heat exchange and enables the unit to cool properly. When airflow is constrained, the system has to work harder to reach the desired temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you use your air conditioner without knowing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the lack of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, resulting in its failure or damage.  That’s why it is necessary to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any obstructions and is not covered to maintain maximum airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it's much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioner than to cover your exterior AC unit.

There are several key maintenance tasks you should prioritize to ensure optimal operation and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure you don't see any dirt and dust buildup that would impede effective heat exchange or airflow.

Scheduled air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit's life span, decreases energy consumption and avoids costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, investing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive plan of action that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.